On paper, Realm of The Mad God would never work. You have an MMORPG backbone with Twin-Stick Shooter mechanics and a few sprinkles of Action/Adventure thrown in there for good measure all topped off with a complement of 8 bit graphics – it’s madness!
Fortunately, some indie developers like madness…
Coming from indie developer Wild Shadow Studios, this twin-stick, action adventure MMO pixel-fest is described by one of the developers as a “massively cooperative bullet hell shooter” and that genre fits well enough! You begin your Mad God adventure having being imprisoned by Oryx (the aforementioned Mad God) in order to become food for his minions. Your mission is to break out of your prison and make your way to The Nexus.
The Nexus is the central hub for all players – it serves as the start point for all of the games dungeons, its shops and also the in game auction house – which is essentially a conveniently placed empty courtyard where people attempt to sell equipment that they cannot use. Interestingly, the option is present to instantly teleport to the Nexus at anytime and with the inclusion of permanent character death, this option is best hot-keyed to a button within easy reach (such as the second mouse button)
After making it through The Nexus, your main objective is to work through the Mad Gods many minions, defeat all of them, make it to the Mad God Oryx’s castle, defeat several other bosses and finally face Oryx himself and defeat him – a task I have failed at twice already – though I naturally blame my team mates because like all good MMO players it was clearly *their* fault I moved out of position during the final battle. Clearly.
All is not lost however, when (not if) your character dies your statistics (levels gained, items collected, Mad God minions killed) are converted into Fame – the in-game currency – which can be traded for items such as additional character slots and also special single-use teleport items to take you to one of the games many ‘special instances’ to try and collect unique weapons and equipment.
Realm of The Mad God contains all the essential elements of a successful MMORPG with next to none of the grind – albeit it lacks in significant reward like modern MMO’s but that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of playing and the sense of accomplishment you get every time you defeat one of the Mad Gods minions.
Also, having the visual styling of a ZX Spectrum is quite advantageous as it not only allows you to easily distinguish between different class types but also allows the game to run well even on older machines (this might be of little or no consequence to many people but when your like me and primarily use a 10 year old Lenovo T61 laptop for work then trust me, it matters)
The inclusion of permanent death is an interesting factor in Mad God and (to my memory) not one I have had to deal with before. I instinctively found myself sticking to forest paths and little 8 bit beaches in the different areas for fear of being overwhelmed by pixelated beasties if a ventured further.
In truth, Realm of the Mad God isn’t a game about deranged gods, dungeons, loot or cooperative adventure. No, it is a game all about trains…no, really.
Now, when I say trains, I don’t mean the locomotive type of ‘choo choo’ train but rather the act which took place in early MMORPG’s where large groups of players would gather together and surge through an area dispatching enemies and gaining shared experience. Because this is exactly what takes place at every moment inside Mad God, given that the experience is shared between players in a close proximity and is not divided, it allows you to hit the level 20 cap in roughly 10 minutes with a medium sized group of players around you.
If you decided to go it alone however and level up using more traditional methods then the level cap is easily achievable within an hour or so but as death is both constant and permanent in Mad God there appears to be a greater sense of camaraderie present in each player. The ‘unite or die’ philosophy takes precedence and you find yourself either joining or starting a train sometimes completely by accident.
Mad God is the perfect example of an MMO game without the arduous tasks associated with them. If someone were to ask you to show them how an MMORPG worked, you would have to go through some lengthy explanations and a few raids in WoW to make them fully understand the dynamics. If you sit them in front of Realm of The Mad God however, they would learn these staples of the MMO lifestyle within a few minutes.
Realm of The Mad God is currently available Free-to-Play via Steam
Review Score : [starreview tpl=16]
Title : Realm of the Mad God
Format : PC (Steam)
Developer : Wild Shadow Studios
Publisher : Spray Fox
Release Date : Out Now